Did you know that in America, over 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) get reported each year? STDs don’t discriminate, meaning every sexually active person is vulnerable.
Now that you’re sexually active, it’s important to protect your health — and your partner’s health — against STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. At his private practice in White Plains and Queens, New York, board-certified OB/GYN Daniel S. Kushner, MD, helps you do just that.
Take a moment to learn more about STDs and how you can keep yourself safe.
Sexually transmitted diseases are infections you get from another person during sexual activity. You may hear people call STDs sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or venereal diseases. They spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact, and some STDs spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Different bacteria and viruses cause different STDs. Scientists know of over 25 different infections. Some of the most common STDs in the United States include:
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Hepatitis B
- Genital warts
Many STDs don’t have obvious symptoms. This can make it difficult to know if you have an STD. It also means you can spread STDs without knowing it, and so can your partners.
STD screening is the only reliable way to know for sure if you have an STD. That’s why regular STD testing with a provider like Dr. Kushner is so important.
Understanding STD screening
Different STDs need different treatments, and STD screening is important because it helps you get the right medical care. Your STD screening results are always confidential.
How often you should have STD testing depends on different factors, like:
- Your age
- Your medical history
- Your sexual health history
- Lifestyle factors (e.g., number of partners; sharing needles)
Dr. Kushner discusses these with you to determine how often you need STD screening.
Protecting yourself against STDs
The only way to avoid STDs completely is by not having any sexual contact with another person. For most people, however, abstinence isn’t practical, but you can protect yourself in different ways. Here’s a look at some of the best ways to keep yourself and your partners healthy.
1. Talk to your partners
Before you have sex, talk to your partner about STDs, safe sex, and getting tested for infections. Having a conversation about STDs can feel embarrassing or intimidating, but it could save your lives.
2. Mutual monogamy
The more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk of getting an STD. You can lower your risk by agreeing to have sex with one partner who also agrees to only have sex with you. This is called mutual monogamy, and it’s one of the most reliable ways you can avoid getting an STD.
3. Practice safe sex
You can lower your risk of getting an STD by using condoms, dental dams, or female condoms. These barrier method forms of birth control offer some protection from STDs. This is especially important if mutual monogamy isn’t for you.
Even though these types of birth control lower your risk, you can still get some STDs, like HPV, even when using them. That’s why it’s important to practice safe sex and take other steps to protect your health.
4. Get vaccinated
HPV is the most common STD in the US. For some people, this viral infection can cause genital warts or cervical cancer. You can reduce your chances of contracting HPV by getting vaccinated.
Another common STD you can get vaccinated against is hepatitis B. Hep B is a type of serious liver infection that increases your risk of having liver cancer, liver failure, and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). The good news is that once you’re vaccinated, you’re immune for life.
5. Get routine STD testing
Getting regular STD testing is a good way to prevent the spread of STDs. While Dr. Kushner recommends a personalized testing schedule based on your needs, here’s a look at the general guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Annual testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia: Sexually active women under 25; sexually active women over 25 with new or multiple partners; sexually active women of any age whose partner has an STD
- Lifetime HIV screening: All people ages 13-64
- Annual HIV testing: Anyone practicing unsafe sex or sharing needles
In addition, all pregnant women should get screened for syphilis, hepatitis B, and HIV early in their pregnancy.
To learn more about protecting yourself against STDs, schedule an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Kushner at his New York location most convenient to you.